Flashback: MyConstitution Launch Speech by Edmund Bon, 13 November 2009

On occasion of MyConstitution’s 3rd anniversary, we reproduce the Welcome Speech by Edmund Bon Tai Soon (then Chairperson of the Bar Council’s Constitutional Law Committee) at the launch of the Campaign. The event was officiated by Datuk VK Liew, Deputy Minister in the PM’s Department and his speech is here. Ragunath Kesavan’s speech as President of the Malaysian Bar is here.

Ladies and gentlemen, my fellow Malaysians.

Welcome to your Campaign. Welcome to a new movement.

This is a historic occasion for us – this country. This country has never seen a campaign quite like this. So I’m glad we’re here today to witness it together.

The MyConstitution Campaign, or Kempen PerlembagaanKu, is about you.

This Campaign is for you, the rakyat.

This Campaign is by us, the people, and it must be carried by the people for it to be successful.

And so, I thank you, for being here. I thank you for rocking this country in support of this Campaign. Because it is you, and your participation today, that will set the tone for how this Campaign will proceed.

My fellow Malaysians.

What is this Campaign about? Why are you here today? What are we trying to achieve?

The MyConstitution Campaign aims to bring the Federal Constitution to 28 millions Malaysians, to you. The Campaign will explain key messages of the Constitution in the language of the layperson, and deliver the enduring stories of the Constitution to you. To every Malaysian.

The Federal Constitution is the supreme law of the land. It is above any other law in this country. And in fact, it is the Federal Constitution that determines how all other laws are made.

Laws that determine whether or not you are a Malaysian. Laws that determine whether or not you are free to walk in your neighbourhood, or town, or kampung, or city. And whether or not anyone can stop you from being there. Laws that determine whether or not you are equal to everyone else in this country. Laws that determine whether or not you can sing or dance; or watch people singing or dancing. Laws that determine whether or not you have a right to exist; and what it means to exist.

The Federal Constitution doesn’t spell out each and every thing that can or cannot be done, but it provides a general direction or blueprint for how things should be done, and what is allowed in general and what is not allowed in general.

It is to the Federal Constitution, and to the spirit and intention of its directions, that lawmakers are supposed to turn when making laws.

It is the laws that lawmakers make that affect our lives.

If the laws have been made well, and conform to the requirements of the Constitution, life should be good for us.

But if they have been made badly, and do not conform to the Constitution, then life might be bad for us.

Sometimes, too, good laws are made, but are not applied in the spirit of the Constitution.

If this happens, we, the rakyat, suffer.

So why is it important for you to know the Federal Constitution?

Because, all things said and done, the person responsible for looking after you is YOU.

We, as a society, look out for each other, and work in concert as a team. This lends us strength.

But if not every one of us knows the Constitution – and its promise to us, the rakyat – then, there is a break in the link that is supposed to make us strong.

My fellow Malaysians.

The Federal Constitution is a complex document written in a legalistic fashion. Few Malaysians understand it.

This is a tragedy.

So, this Campaign is going to simplify it for the rakyat. So that the rakyat can learn about the Federal Constitution – regardless of who you are in society.

Because we are Malaysians. And this is your Constitution.

I think we should say from the outset that this is a partisan campaign.

We can’t help it.

When we say this is a campaign for the rakyat, we mean it.

We side with the people – the rakyat – with you and no one else.

Make no mistake though. This Campaign is not going to fight your battles for you.

We want to help you educate yourself on the Constitution, on your rights, so that YOU can fight your own battles.

We want to help you empower yourself, so that you can be a fully participating member of the democratic system of this country.

If an issue arises that concerns the Constitution, we want you to be able to read the Constitution for yourself, and analyse the issue for yourself.

It is only by participating in civil society that we can develop fully and properly as a civilisation, as a people, and as human beings.

This is something the Government recognises too, which is why they are with us today. We hope that this support will accompany us throughout the Campaign. And we hope that in January 2010, the Government will officially agree to partner with us in this Campaign. We also hope that other organisations and State Governments will step forward to partner with us or contribute what they can.

My fellow Malaysians.

This project started in April this year with the formation of the Constitutional Law Committee.

From that, the Campaign was born. And very quickly, it has transformed into a movement for the rakyat by the rakyat.

The people who are currently behind this Campaign are people from not just the legal world. They include students, academics, journalists, activists and laypersons.

Nearly all of this group are under 35 years old.

This does not mean that older people are not welcome or appreciated. In fact, we are utilising their wisdom in our workshops and forums; in the sharing of knowledge borne by years of learning and experience. The ‘Conversations on the Constitution’ dialogue today will showcase that.

But the driving force behind this Campaign is the young. And this is how it should be.

For it is the young that will inherit what is started today. And it is they who will most benefit or suffer from what is done or not done today.

Which is why, if you look at the MyConstitution logo, you will see that it comprises children. They represent the future of this country.

The MyConsti kids are also colourful. As we are colourful. And they are together. As should we be.

This Campaign is just starting now. But so far, we have achieved a great deal of positive interest and commitment in it.

On October 10th, we set up our Facebook MyConstitution fan page, and set a target for ourselves to get nothing less than 2,000 fans by today.

I’m happy to say that we hit that target three days ago, on November 10th, at 2.01pm.

As at 3pm today, we now have more than 2,500 fans.

And this is just Facebook!

The MyConstitution Campaign has received unprecedented media coverage.

In just the last two weeks, we have been featured in, among others, Off The Edge, New Straits Times, New Sunday Times, Berita Harian, Harian Metro, Sinar Harian, Malay Mail, The Star, The Sunday Star, theSun, KLue, The Malaysian Insider, Malaysian Mirror, The Nut Graph, Merdeka Review, Sin Chew Jit Poh, Astro Awani, Astro’s radio stations, NTV7 and TVSelangor.

We have also been featured in the leading blogs in this country.

I think we have achieved a media support base that would make political parties jealous!

We hope that all media will partner with us throughout this Campaign.

All these features can be viewed on our PerlembagaanKu.com website, Facebook fan page, and YouTube page. You can also participate in discussions or get more information from our MyConsti Twitter page.

In addition to media coverage, we have received donations and pledges from various legal firms, tertiary institutions and ordinary citizens.

As a non-profit campaign, every one of the committee members is a volunteer, contributing in his or her own private time. We pay for our own food, drinks, paper and pens.

We intend to produce nine booklets – ‘The Rakyat Guides’ – in the coming two years of this Campaign. And we would like to see each booklet in each of the six million households we have in Malaysia, and be able to reach 28 million Malaysians with the contents of our booklets.

This means that somehow, we have to produce at least 54 million booklets.

We hope that the Federal and State Governments, as well as public and private institutions and organisations will partner with us on this.

But since this is the rakyat’s campaign, we would appreciate any contribution the rakyat can make. Everything goes to the Campaign.

For today, may I encourage every person here to take out 10 Ringgit from your wallet or purse and donate it to this Campaign, in exchange for 10 booklets.

My fellow Malaysians.

The MyConstitution Campaign is a campaign for the rakyat by the rakyat.

We would like you to join us. We want your participation.

Please don’t just wait for whatever we come up with to come to you. Make suggestions, contribute ideas, contribute your time, your knowledge, your skills. Volunteer to distribute these booklets.

My fellow Malaysians.

You have with you the very first booklet ‘The Rakyat Guides: What is the Federal Constitution?’

You are the first people to get it.

When you leave this Auditorium later today, we hope those booklets will go with you – spreading out into this city and country, as you do.

Take this booklet, read it.

Go home, show it to your family. Get them to read it.

Take it to your office. Get your workmates to read it.

This weekend, if you meet up with your friends, show it to them – and get them to read it.

Explain the Campaign to them.

You may not know the Constitution yet. And neither might they. But together, you, they, and we, can help each other learn.

My fellow Malaysians.

This is the beginning.

You are the beginning.

Ten years from now, I hope you, I, we, will all be able to look back on this day and be proud of what we started. And of what we have achieved.

The Campaign will only be as good as the members who run it. The Constitutional Law Committee is privileged to have 99 comrades of diverse backgrounds including representatives from the Sabah Law Association, the Advocates’ Association of Sarawak and the Sarawak Indigenous Lawyers’ Association. Before I take my place, let me record on behalf of the Bar Council our sincere gratitude and special acknowledgment of the work by many of the following individuals for us to have come so far:

Mahaletchumi Balakrishnan

Syahredzan Johan

Firdaus Bt Husni

Shamala Balasundaram

Aniza Damis

Grace Wong Phui Mun

Kwan Will Sen

Samuel Leong Chan Yan

Michael Loo Yeong Huei

Low Boon Seong

Selena Kong

Paul Linus Andrews

Nadia Bt Abu Bakar

Yip Xiaoheng

Yeoh Tung Seng

Leong Sher-How

Wong Fook Meng

Daniel Joseph Albert

Leong Yeng Kong

Yvonne Young Ai Peng

Tey Jun Ren

Lim Hern Gene

May Chow Wei Cheng

Yap Yin May

Zulqarnian Lukman

Janet Lee Sim Kuen

Azhar Azizan Harun

Farez Jinnah

Tiu Gi Gyn

We would also like to thank Mien Lor who directed and produced the 1st ‘Rakyat Service Advertisement’, Joe Kidd who did the artwork and layout of the ‘The Rakyat Guides’, and the Fadzil brothers – Fahmi and Fikri – who designed and conceptualised the website. And of course not forgetting our Bar Council Secretariat staff – our Committee’s Executive Officer, Lim Ka Ea, and Khairul and Kelvin.

We acknowledge the lawyers and firms for contributing towards funding Phase 1 of the Campaign as follows:

Lee Hishamuddin Allen Gledhill

Robert Low

Shearn Delamore

Ranjit Singh & Yeoh

Malik Imtiaz Sarwar

We also acknowledge ATC College and Taylors College for their kind donations.

Thank you to former Bar Council member, Roger Tan, who in his last term mooted the idea to establish the Constitutional Law Committee.

I am sure all of us are fired to go, so step inside this movement, and let’s rock this country together.

Thank you.

MyConsti at Bertang, Raub || Colin Nicholas (COAC)

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4 Responses to Flashback: MyConstitution Launch Speech by Edmund Bon, 13 November 2009

  1. FREEDOM FIGHTER

    Point 7: Right of Secession
    There should be no right to secede from the Federation

    Point 8: Borneanisation
    Borneanisation of the public service should proceed as quickly as possible.

    Point 9: British Officers
    Every effort should be made to encourage British Officers to remain in the public service until their places can be taken by suitably qualified people from Borneo (Sarawak & Sabah)

    THE 18/20 POINTS AGREEMENT PART 1

    Point 10: Citizenship
    The recommendation in paragraph 148(k) of the Report of the Cobbold Commission should govern the citizenship rights in the Federation of Borneo (Sarawak & Sabah) subject to the following amendments:
    * a) sub-paragraph (i) should not contain the proviso as to five years residence
    * b) in order to tie up with our law, sub-paragraph (ii)(a) should read “7 out of 10 years” instead of “8 out of 10 years”
    * c) sub-paragraph (iii) should not contain any restriction tied to the citizenship of parents – a person born in Borneo (Sarawak & Sabah) after Malaysia must be federal citizen.

    Point 11: Tariffs and Finance
    Borneo (Sarawak & Sabah) should retain control of its own finance, development and tariff, and should have the right to work up its own taxation and to raise loans on its own credit.

    Point 12: Special position of indigenous races
    In principle, the indigenous races of Borneo (Sarawak & Sabah) should enjoy special rights analogous to those enjoyed by Malays in Malaya, but the present Malays’ formula in this regard is not necessarily applicable in Borneo(Sarawak & Sabah)

    Point 13: State Government
    * a) the Prime Minister should be elected by unofficial members of Legislative Council
    * b) There should be a proper Ministerial system in Borneo (Sarawak & Sabah)

    Point 14: Transitional period
    This should be seven years and during such period legislative power must be left with the State of Borneo (Sarawak & Sabah) by the Constitution and not be merely delegated to the State Government by the Federal Government

    Point 15: Education
    The existing educational system of Borneo (Sarawak & Sabah) should be maintained and for this reason it should be under state control

    Point 16: Constitutional safeguards
    No amendment modification or withdrawal of any special safeguard granted to Borneo (Sarawak & Sabah) should be made by the Central Government without the positive concurrence of the Government of the State of North Borneo.

    The power of amending the Constitution of the State of Borneo (Sarawak & Sabah) shouldbelong exclusively to the people in the state. (Note: The United Party, The Democratic Party and the Pasok Momogun Party considered that a three-fourth majority would be required in order to effect any amendment to the Federal and State Constitutions whereas the UNKO and USNO considered a two-thirds majority would be sufficient)

    Point 17: Representation in Federal Parliament
    This should take account not only of the population of Borneo (Sarawak & Sabah) but also of its seize and potentialities and in any case should not be less than that of Singapore

    Point 18: Name of Head of State
    Yang di-Pertua Negara

    Point 19: Name of State
    Sarawak or Sabah

    Point 20: Land, Forests, Local Government, etc.
    The provisions in the Constitution of the Federation in respect of the powers of the National Land Council should not apply in Borneo (Sarawak & Sabah). Likewise, the National Council for Local Government should not apply in Borneo (Sarawak & Sabah).

    Comment by ORANG2BANGKIT — November 14, 2012

  2. FREEDOM FIGHTER

    THE 18/20 POINTS AGREEMENT PART 1

    RESIST UMNO RELIGIOUS BLACKMAIL…..STAND UP FOR YOUR RIGHTS!

    In case you guys did not know our Sarawak Sabah 18/20 Points Agreement said we are free to choose our religion and also they cannot stop using English forever.

    THIS IS THE 1ST ITEM ON THE LIST OF 18/20 POINTS AGT!

    “there should be no State religion in North Borneo, and the provisions relating to Islam in the present Constitution of Malaya should not apply in North Borneo” (& Sarawak).

    This means the Sabah and Sarawak negotiators saw this as a no.1 issue- no imposition of Islam on Sabah and Sarawak!

    Reality check here: http://charleshector.blogspot.com.au/2012/09/mala

    18/20-Point Agreements

    SARAWAK/SABAH 18/20 POINTS AGREEMENT WHEN Helping to Form Malaysia (not join, NEVER applied but HELP FORM)

    Point 1: Religion
    While there was no objection to Islam being the national religion of Malaysia there should be no State religion in Borneo (Sarawak & Sabah), and the provisions relating to Islam in the present Constitution of Malaya should not apply to Borneo.

    Point 2: Language
    * a. Malay should be the national language of the Federation
    * b. English should continue to be used for a period of 10 years after Malaysia Day
    * c. English should be an official language of Borneo (Sarawak & Sabah) for all purposes, State or Federal, without limitation of time.

    Point 3: Constitution
    Whilst accepting that the present Constitution of the Federation of Malaya should form the basis of the Constitution of Malaysia, the Constitution of Malaysia should be a completely new document drafted and agreed in the light of a free association of states and should not be a series of amendments to a Constitution drafted and agreed by different states in totally different circumstances. A new Constitution for Borneo (Sarawak & Sabah) was of course essential.

    Point 4: Head of Federation
    The Head of State in Borneo (Sarawak & Sabah) should not be eligible for election as Head of the Federation

    Point 5: Name of Federation
    “Malaysia” but not “Melayu Raya”

    Point 6: Immigration
    Control over immigration into any part of Malaysia from outside should rest with the Central Government but entry into Borneo (Sarawak & Sabah) should also require the approval of the State Government. The Federal Government should not be able to veto the entry of persons into Borneo (Sarawak & Sabah) for State Government purposes except on strictly security grounds. Borneo (Sarawak & Sabah) should have unfettered control over the movements of persons other than those in Federal Government employ from other parts of Malaysia Borneo (Sarawak & Sabah).

  3. FREEDOM FIGHTER

    9 CARDINAL PRINCIPLES OF OUR 1941 SARAWAK CONSTITUTION HONOURED RELIGIOUS FREEDOM WHICH UMNO WANTS TO TAKE AWAY!

    SEE CLAUSE 5-FREEDOM TO WORSHIP

    Nine Cardinal Principles of the rule of the English Rajah
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    The Nine Cardinal Principles of the rule of the English Rajah is the Preamble of the Sarawak Constitution 1941, the document setting forth the Sarawak Constitution 1941 opened by enunciating the Cardinal Principle were edict by Charles Vyner Brooke, the White Rajah of Sarawak on 24 September 1941 known as the Nine Cardinal Principles of the rule of the White Rajah later adopted into the Nine Cardinal Principles of the rule of the English Rajah,[1] these were;

    1. That Sarawak is the heritage of Our Subjects and is held in trust by Ourselves for them.

    2. That social and education services shall be developed and improved and the standard of living of the people of Sarawak shall steadily be raised.

    3. That never shall any person or persons be granted rights inconsistent with those of the people of this country or be in any way permitted to exploit Our Subjects or those who have sought Our protection and care.

    4. That justice shall be freely obtainable and that the Rajah and every public servant shall be easily accessible to the public.

    5. That freedom of expression both in speech and in writing shall be permitted and encouraged and that everyone shall be entitled to worship as he pleases.

    6. That public servants shall ever remember that they are but the servants of the people on whose goodwill and co-operation they are entirely dependent.

    7. That so far as may be Our Subjects of whatever race or creed shall be freely and impartially admitted to offices in Our Service, the duties of which they may be qualified by their education, ability and integrity duly to discharge.

    8. That the goal of self-government shall always be kept in mind, that the people of Sarawak shall be entrusted in due course with the governance of themselves, and that continuous efforts shall be made to hasten the reaching of this goal by educating them in the obligations, the responsibilities, and the privileges of citizenship.

    9. That the general policy of Our predecessors and Ourselves whereby the various races of the State have been enabled to live in happiness and harmony together shall be adhered to by Our successors and Our servants and all who may follow them hereafter.

    ALL THE ABOVE 9 PRINCIPLES ARE SUPERIOR TO THE MALAYAN CONSTITUTION WHICH HAS ABROGATED ALL CLAUSES FROM 1 TO 9!

    DID WE TRADE IN THIS SET OF PRINCIPLES FOR SOME JUNK STUFF FROM UMNO?

    ALSO LOOK AT ALL THE OTHER CLAUSES ESPECIALLY CLAUSE 9.

    UMNO HAS CREATED AN APARTHEID SOCIETY & IS DESTROYING OUR ONCE HAPPY HARMONIOUS SOCIETY!

    SARAWAK POLITICIANS DO US A SERVICE DRAW PUBLIC ATTENTION TO THESE PRINCIPLES!

    MAKE THEM YOUR OWN.

    Comment by ORANG2BANGKIT — November 14, 2012

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  4. FREEDOM FIGHTER

    Reposted from Hornbill Unleashed 3 comments on the Constitution Debate sparked off by Nurul's "freedom to choose religion" statement decribed as "watershed statement" by Steve Oh now under police investigation (for what-sedition?)

    The 18/20 Points Agreements between Sarawak Sabah and Malaya have stipulations on relgious freedom, language and re-writing the "Malaysian Constitution" which was never done – only amended to reflect annexation of Sabah and Sarawak as pasts of Malaya! Please read 3 comment below.

    CONSTITUTIONAL DEBATE HIGHLIGHTS SUPERIOR SARAWAK'S 1941 CONSTITUTION

    Currently there is a national debate sparked off by PKR Nurul's comments on the issue of freedom and human rights under the Constitution.

    There have been open debates on many other issues since the new millenium and the internet but this one has never happened in the history of Malaya or Malaysia.

    This happening in the context that a Malay has directly challenged a tabooed subject – the freedom of everyone including Malays choose their own religion. This also challenges the restrictions on our democratic freedoms and human rights placed on citizens by the Malayan/M'sian Constitution and host of repressive laws.

    This debate while over due seems to be creating a risky situation for the opposition as it can cause an adverse reaction against them from Malays who have not decided to go against UMNO. UMNO will exploit this issue to the fullest extent.

    On the other hand it questions and challenges UMNO's monopoly of using religion as an emotional issue to blackmail and control the Malays and non-Malays.

    However, despite the risks this debate is  nevertheless of the greatest importance in Malayan/M'sian constitutional history because the public is actually engaged on this special issue as never before.

    The Malayan Constitution was drafted by the British in 1957 and simply amended to incorporate Sabah and Sarawak 1964 (not 1963) despite a stipulation that a new constitution was to be drafted in the 18/20 Points Agreement.

    The debate is timely to highlight our unique and superior Sarawak constitution where the Rajah of Sarawak promised in 1941 on the Centenary of Brooke Rule to resign and let the people rule.

    Sarawak as an independent country from 1841 to 1941 has its own very unique and more democratic Constitution promulgated on the eve of Japanese invasion. That invasion unfortunately stalled the Sarawak nation evolving further on basis of this constitution. Sarawak with Sabah became a British colony in 1946 and then annexed into Malaysia as Malayan colonies in 1963.

    Sorry Malayan friends, the use of the words "Malayan colony" is not intended to offend anyone but to describe the real colonial relationship with Malaya.

    There are many Malayan progressives who believe by twigging the system such as "giving them" 20% oil royalty and other “concessions” would appease Sabahans and Sarawakians' demands for real independence and preserve the concept of Malaysia- despite its colonial nature. Forget about our terms and conditions in the 18/20 Points Agreement.

    If you did not know, the oil belonged to us in the first place. This is on Sabah and  Sarawak territory. It is a an extremely condescending attitude which we have to put up with for 49 years not to mention the grand theft of our oil to develop Malaya and enrich all the UMNO elites and cronies and puppets.

    If you are interested in the history there are 2 pre-Malaysia Sarawak documents you need to familiar yourself with as these will constantly come up in discussions. They are the Sarawak 9 Cardinal Principles (in the preamble of our Sarawak Constitution) and the 18 Points Agreement with Malaya prior to forming Malaysia in 1963.

    This is the link to discussions on the subject:
    http://hornbillunleashed.wordpress.com/2012/11/14

    It is important that we all should join in and broaden the debate to question the relevance of the Constitution as our right to do so.

    Sarawak Nationalist 16 Nov 2012
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